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30 October 2015

Music Maestro: What song are you?

   



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“What song are you?”

In a brief moment of downtime the other day I did one of those online personality tests, where the resulting song is meant to represent your personality. I shared it with my friends on Facebook and soon they were all at it. It was just a bit of fun, not to be taken too seriously…

Or was it “just a bit of fun”?  The comments amongst my friends and I hint at something more fundamental. Those songs represent a common experience; a common language we could all engage in and that we actively chose to do so.

You see, music is undeniably powerful. Yet it is also intimate and often subliminal. 

The High Street plugged in to the power of music a long time ago. However, the choice of a playlist can be hit and miss. It’s my belief that the time has come for retail brands – and not just fashion retailers - to pay expert attention to their sound and develop a brand soundtrack.

Marketing departments spend considerable time and resources creating brand identities and producing guidelines for their implementation across the different channels, then spending thousands on store design, layout, aesthetics and lighting, but rarely is much thought given to a brand’s overall sound, and the experience of the sound in store. 

Silence is awkward and instinctively avoided, but frequently individual store staff are left to improvise by plugging in their mp3 player with their own choice of tracks on shuffle. 

For organisations that have often spent millions developing their brand, leaving something as important as a brand’s soundtrack to chance is, at best, risky. For starters you have the issue of potentially causing offence through bad language on a track or inappropriate lyrics. 

But it’s not just about avoiding causing offence. Music has a positive contribution to make. It can provide a richer brand experience if expertly matched to the brand and delivered to accommodate your customers’ requirements as they change throughout the day and across different regions. So what’s playing in a London flagship store at 6pm on a Friday might be slightly different to a smaller outlet in, say, Bath. And what’s playing in that same Bath outlet at 6pm is likely to be different to what was playing 10.30am that same morning.

Leaving the soundtrack to “shuffle” should never be an option as it takes a knowledgeable ear to translate a brand into audio, to adapt that sound to different demographics and to apply that audio-branding consistently, but adaptively, over days, weeks, months and years. 

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I know that for large retailers with multiple stores, an in-house “Live Radio” feel syndicated over their stores has been one highly effective solution, albeit an expensive one. A more cost-effective option is the use of bespoke pre recorded radio shows but without the expense of your own dedicated radio station. PEL’s ‘MediainStore’, for example, uses the latest audio scheduling technology, enabling it to transmit radio programmes and playlists to every location that is set up to receive the service. 

For smaller retailers, a music only supply service such as PEL’s ‘MusicStore’ would be more suitable.  A music playlist is created which reflects the brand image and customer profile and updated monthly to keep it fresh. Award winning hair salon chain Rush sums up the benefits of this route: “Music is important to our company’s image” states Carole Dowd, Operations Support Manager for Rush. “The quality of the sound is important; so is what’s played. We want uniformity across the salons and to ensure this we needed greater control of the playlist. Using ‘MusicStore’ we can ensure the right ambience. PEL can even adapt the music on a demographic basis to meet the slightly different requirements of an inner London salon with one in the suburbs. Plus they can alter the music to the time of day, with more chilled music in the morning and something more energising towards the end of the day.”

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Getting a brand’s soundtrack tone and balance right doesn’t have to be overly complicated or expensive, but it does need to be done by professionals who understand that brand and have a wealth of music knowledge. Regardless if the customer size, there is a music supply service out there to meet their budget and requirements. 

Oh yes, my song, in case you’re wondering, from that online testwas that 2006 classic by the Scissor Sisters.  I think that’s just ridiculous …I *always* “feel like dancin”!

By Chris Wilcox, Music & Media Manager of PEL Services

   



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